When I was about 7 years old, Dad took me to a park somewhere around downtown Salt Lake City, where there were grass, trees galore, and about a billion big ol’ bread-fed ducks. So I went ballistic, running around and chasing the ducks.
I heard a muffled yell from the parking lot, so I turned around. Along came a Chinese lady, about 90 years old and about 4 feet tall. I was a good little kid, so I stood still while she shuffled her way slowly toward me. As she got within earshot, she raised her cane above her head threateningly and began to tell me what a horrible child I was, how peaceful ducks are, and how terrible it was for me to scare the ducks like this. How would I like it if I was just sleeping, minding my own business, and some enormous duck came along and tried to pick me up? Would I like that? She was in fine form. After berating me for about 5 minutes straight, she accepted my meek apology, and shuffled off angrily.
I felt even smaller than the old Chinese lady. Boy, I felt low. Like I had just accidentally slammed the door on a puppy, or something. I was a terrible person. A terrible, horribly embarrassed person. (The only old Chinese person I knew personally was my dad’s Tai Chi instructor, so I guess I just assumed that all elderly Asians were dispensaries of wisdom – at any rate, I assumed that she was right, and I was mud.) I ran off to climb a tree, where Dad came and found me, told me he’d seen the whole thing but wanted to let me fight my own battles, and then shared a chuckle about how funny the lady looked shaking a cane above her head. Maybe I shouldn’t scare ducks – but old ladies shouldn’t scare children, either.
Today, Ethan and I went for a walk to take advantage of the sunshine, and ended up at the duck pond. We just sat in the sun for a while, filling in captions for what we thought the ducks were saying. Two of them were having a marital dispute. One was trying to impress a girl by splashing water on her head. One was named Lucille.
And then we saw the greatest sight of the day. They weren’t ducks – they were people. A family of 4: one dad and three kids, all carrying medieval-style foam weapons. One boy had a sword, the girl had a double-edged sword, and dad and the other boy each had battle-axes. We watched, impressed with the fine parenting of this father, as he walked his family through the park, stopping only momentarily to wait for the battle-ax boy to catch up after waging epic (but harmless) war on a flock of ducks. Maybe they were scared – but if I was one of those ducks, I’d be honored to have fought such an adversary. Well met, young warrior. May your tiny foam ax lead you always to victory.♦